mazzetta on Tue, 16 Dec 2008 20:16:20 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Google's fast track

    Google Slams 'Confused' WSJ Story on Network Neutrality

*Sam Gustin writes*: Google is blasting a new /Wall Street Journal/ 
story <> that 
suggests the internet search giant is ditching its support for network 
neutrality as "confused," "hyperbolic," and "overblown."

The /Journal/ article says that Google is talking to the major cable and 
phone companies about paying for a "fast lane" for Google's content -- 
including YouTube videos -- and suggests that the Google is moving away 
from its long-standing support for network neutrality, the principle 
that all internet traffic should be treated equally.

Google responded quickly and did not mince words in denouncing the 
/Journal/'s article.

"In short, the /Wall Street Journal/ story is wildly, dramatically 
overblown and reflects a misunderstanding of both our caching practices 
as well as our position on net neutrality," Adam Kovacevich, a Google 
public affairs spokesperson, told by email.

Stanford Professor Larry Lessig 
<>, who 
is referenced by the /Journal/, called the story a "made-up drama."

In the article, provocatively titled "Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on 
the Web," the paper reports that the search giant is seeking 
"preferential treatment" over other Web content providers by placing 
servers "directly within the network of the service providers."

In a company blog post 
late Sunday, Richard Whitt, Google's chief telecom and media counsel, 
sought to refute the story.

"Despite the hyperbolic tone and confused claims in Monday's /Journal/ 
story, I want to be perfectly clear about one thing: Google remains 
strongly committed to the principle of net neutrality, and we will 
continue to work with policymakers in the years ahead to keep the 
Internet free and open," White wrote.

In the story, Google's plans were sourced to "documents" obtained by the 
/Journal/ and a single anonymous cable executive, who provided an 
inflammatory (literally) quote.

"If we did this, Washington would be on fire," says one executive at the 
cable company who is familiar with the talks, referring to the likely 
reaction of regulators and lawmakers.

The /Journal/ article failed to mention that Google has been colocating 
servers in major telecom hotels, such as Google's New York City 
headquarters, for years. Google's strategy has long been to position 
servers close to telecom peering facilities in order to lower the 
company's bandwidth costs and improve network performance. This practice 
also lowers costs for broadband providers, as Whitt notes. Did the 
/Journal/ not know this?

Google's New York headquarters at 111 Eighth Avenue in New York is one 
of the largest telecom hotels in the country and gives Google "direct 
access to the building's network-neutral meet-me room -- literally, an 
area where telecommunications companies can physically hook up and 
exchange data cheaply and efficiently," as I wrote 
a couple of years ago. The old Port Authority building 
<> is the third largest building in New York 
and takes up an entire city block. Google's official address is 76 Ninth 

These giant facilities are the nodes where content companies hook up 
with telecom companies. Google occupies over 300,000 square feet over 
several floors in the building, employing several thousand workers and 
housing an untold multitude of servers. Other tenants include Nike, 
WebMD, Barnes and Noble, and Armani Exchange. In 2007, a 
private-equity-operated outfit called Telx bought the 111 Eighth Ave 
meet me rooms -- which serves BT Americas, MCI, Sprint, Level 3, Qwest, 
NTT, XO Communications, according to its website -- for an undisclosed 
ammount. Telx also operates 60 Hudson, the other major carrier hotel in 
New York, as well a dozen other peering facilitates around the country.

Whitt said that the /Journal/ has misunderstood Google's efforts to 
colocate "caching servers" close to telco and cable nodes as an effort 
to seek a preferential treatment. "We've always said that broadband 
providers can engage in activities like colocation and caching, so long 
as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis," he wrote.

Whitt also disputed comments attributed to him by the /Journal/ which 
seemed to suggest -- somewhat bizarrely -- that president-elect Barack 
Obama, a vocal supporter of network neutrality, has softened his support 
on that issue since his election.

"The /Journal/ story also quoted me as characterizing President-elect 
Obama's net neutrality policies as 'much less specific than they were 
before,'" Whitt wrote. "For what it's worth, I don't recall making such 
a comment, and it seems especially odd given that President-elect 
Obama's supportive stance on network neutrality hasn't changed at all."

Stanford's Lessig -- who has been floated as a possible F.C.C. chairman 
-- was also perplexed 
<> by 
the /Journal/'s suggestion that Obama has changed his views on the 
subject. "I've not seen anything during the Obama campaign or from the 
transition to indicate it has shifted its view about network neutrality 
at all," Lessig said.


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